WILMINGTON, N.C. -- The driver of an ambulance that ran a red light last October and struck a vehicle, killing the 19-year-old driver, pleaded guilty in Brunswick County District Court on Tuesday.
Joseph David Fancher, 45, entered the guilty plea to one count of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in the Oct. 3, 2011, death of Sarah Elizabeth Allen of Oak Island.
Judge Marion Warren sentenced Fancher to 45 days in jail, with 35 days suspended, 36 months' probation and restitution of $9,660. He must also surrender his license for one year, not drive an emergency vehicle for the duration of his probation, and write a letter to the victim's family.
Fancher was driving an Amera-Tech ambulance on U.S. 17 in Shallotte when he ran the light at the intersection with Frontage Road and hit Allen's Mazda Protege. Though he was carrying a patient, it was not an emergency and he had no lights and sirens operating, according to the State Highway Patrol. Allen was taken from the scene by helicopter to New <0x000A>Hanover Regional Medical Center where she died from her injuries.
Sharon Alford, the district attorney's office victim witness coordinator, told Warren that Allen's family was bankrupt because of their daughter's death and had no money to attend Tuesday's hearing.
During the hearing Allen's friend Samantha Pruitt tearfully stood by as the judge gently explained the process to her.
"Mr. Fancher here is going to correspond either through the District Attorney's Office or through the probation office with your friend's family, and they need to be prepared to receive correspondence from him," he said. "I have reviewed the record. I will tell you that when we flipped through the reports provided to me, (Sarah's) driver's license was included in the packet and it just struck me. She has made an impression."
Fancher's attorney Jason Disbrow said Fancher wanted to express his regret to the family.
"Mr. Fancher feels terrible about what his actions have caused. Although his actions were obviously unintentional and a complete accident, it resulted in the loss of a young girl and that's something <0x000A>he'll have to carry with him for the rest of his life," he said.
When asked by Warren if he wished to make a statement, Fancher began to cry.
"I hope someone can learn the easy way from my mistake," he said.
After the hearing he held his hands over his face and wept as he sat alone in the gallery.
Outside, Fancher unlocked a scooter from a lightpost in the parking lot.
An EMT and father of four, Fancher said of the accident that when he first saw the traffic signal it was green and then turned yellow.
"At the point where it turned yellow I knew I wasn't going to be able to stop the ambulance in that short of time. And then the light turned red, and that's when the collision occurred," he said.
"The thing that I want people to know is that green doesn't necessarily mean go. You can't assume that at a green light you're going to go through the intersection. And just because it turns green doesn't mean that someone's not going to come through there. So just slow down at intersections, and when you get the green light wait a second to see if anyone's coming through because you never know."